Saturday, January 23, 2010

Northern Saw-whet Owl in Presque Isle: Rare in winter

As reported earlier, a small owl showed up in a Presque Isle resident's garage recently. Homeowner Kurt Bates sent over a couple pictures he snapped of the little bird and the images revealed that it was a Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Discovered on January 3rd, following a strong storm that hit the area the previous day, this individual is a rare documented winter record of this species in northern Maine.

Features that help distinguish it from the similar (and nearly as likely) Boreal Owl are the dark bill, reddish (rather than chocolate brown) streaks on the breast, streaking on the forehead (rather than spots) and the lack of a dark border around the face.

For comparison, here's a photo of a Boreal Owl taken last winter in New Sweden by Chelsea Reynolds.

Saw-whet Owls aren't all that uncommon in northern Maine in spring and summer. These birds breed in this area, utilizing cavities excavated by Northern Flickers primarily. In April and May their tooting calls advertise their true abundance.

Though its not entirely figured out at this point, its pretty clear a large portion of the northern population of these owls migrates southward in autumn. Saw-whet Owl banding stations in southern Maine have captured hundreds of these little birds as they move out in fall.

Apparently some hang out and try to tough out the northern Maine winter with the rest of us!

1 comment:

Felicia said...

Thanks for the shots comparing the two owls; very helpful. What a treat having an unexpected visitor like this over the winter!